From employee to entrepreneur: The 3 skills you need to make the switch

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 03, 2009 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Freelancing

The transition from working for someone else to working for yourself is not an easy transition. There are lots of people who dream of making that switch but, when it comes right down to it, they can’t. (Or, they do and then they switch back).

The reason is simple: Even though you might have good days and bad days working as an employee, your job is generally predictable: You show up and do your work and you go home at the end of the day.

It’s not like that for entrepreneurs. Here are three skills that aspiring entrepreneurs need in order to be successful:

Embrace the unknown. Small business ownership is not predictable. Some days will be quiet, other days will be insane. For many businesses, the question mark of “where do I get the next client” always seems just around the corner and it never goes away. I have one colleague who has been a successful consultant for years and tells me that it took him years to accept the fact that he was only two weeks away from having no clients. That means he needs to keep an ongoing marketing system in place to make sure that there are always clients who “appear” regularly in order to mitigate that two week cliff.

And, as I write this, I’ve just thought of another client who wanted to become a freelance writer. I helped get him set up, got him some clients, and then he realized that he wasn’t comfortable with the unknowns so he decided to go back to his more predictable (but far less profitable) job in inventory management.

Commit to personal discipline. Why do entrepreneurs fail? Sure, there are a lot of reasons but many of those reasons stem back to a lack of personal discipline: Perhaps they aren’t organized and spend all of their time building a website and none of their time doing billable work. Or perhaps they can’t adequately manage a project (and many aspects of business ownership are related to project management). Or maybe they work too much and don’t take enough personal time to recharge their batteries. Or maybe they spend more time on the phone, at Facebook, or at coffee with friends because they are their own boss.

Another true story example: Someone I know owns six businesses and each one has proven itself to be profitable. Unfortunately, he lacks the personal discipline to focus on a single business so all of them sputter along. I keep telling him to call back the people who are calling him to place orders; I keep telling him to focus on doing two or three things really well, but it doesn’t look like any of his six potentially successful businesses will flourish.

If you’re about to become an entrepreneur, invest in some tools to help you – including systems, processes, and resources to help you stay disciplined.

Realize that your products or services don’t sell themselves. This is a huge problem for new entrepreneurs. Many people who become entrepreneurs but don’t come from a sales background don’t realize that selling something requires more than marketing. It requires some kind of sales effort, too, which is very different than marketing.

I blame the “get rich quick” mentality that is pervasive on the web. This has done a lot of damage to entrepreneurs who could be making a meaningful living by running a business, but instead they are squandering their time and money on less-than-effectives schemes. If you’re about to become an entrepreneur, invest in some sales training and it will make all the difference.

Good Luck!

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